← Return to search results
Back to Prindle Institute

International Experience is Crucial for Our Education

International Education week is a joint operation of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to promote programs that encourage worldwide exchange. The main objective is to prepare Americans for a globalized market and encourage students from abroad to study and share cultural experiences in the United States. This provides a unique opportunity for the cross-cultural exchange of moral values and ideas. I think it’s incredibly important for this to be part of our education. There are numerous lessons to be gleaned from an international education that are not accessible from the classroom. I think an international education experience is the best way to develop a broad understanding of global issues. In today’s interconnected world, it’s important to understand that what you do here in Indiana or elsewhere, has implications worldwide—and what better way than to discover them firsthand?

Founded in 1948, the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers states that, in regards to foreign policy, “International exchanges have often been cited as one of our strongest and most effective public diplomacy tools.” We cannot effectively lead a world we do not understand. This understanding is crucial for a nation that pursues global issues and faces global threats. I believe that every student should be given the opportunity to be educated internationally—especially as a means to better understand the cultures we affect, and are affected by. International education is a worthwhile investment that institutions should make for their students; it should not be reserved solely for privileged students. This is why the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education wish to promote these types of programs and experiences—there is a lot to gain, and little to lose.

An international education is one of the most rewarding experiences you could hope for. Personally, I’ve had the opportunity to study in Costa Rica and Mexico— I’ll be the first to tell you, the statistics are right! I gained a life changing perspective of the world that continues to be at the root of almost every decision I make, academic or not. I encourage all students to pursue and international education—I can ensure you that your moral compass will be challenged and expanded, it will be of great benefit to you, the United States, and the whole of nations.

The fight for the quality of life for all living organisms

“Imagine if you were [confined] to a bathtub for twenty-five years, don’t you think you’d get a little psychotic?!” exclaims an opponent of animal captivity, more specifically that of killer whales.

Marine mammal scientist, Dr. Naomi A. Rose attributes various reasons as to why concrete surroundings are a terrible idea for these smart, complex, powerful creatures. One, the small size of the tank does not allow orcas to be exercised enough and therefore, are not fit. Second, they may be paired or grouped with other orcas that are not conducive to their environment, which decreases their immune system. This is extremely important, as orcas are naturally very social animals.

The three infamous killings by the orca named Tilikum, who has resided at SeaWorld for close to thirty years now, has forced the public to examine the ethics of animal confinement to such harmful environments. One horrid death in particular has reached Breaking News and CNN Films has recently produced an exhilarating documentary titled “Blackfish”, in an attempt to examine the psychology of the phenomenal animal.

The film depicts several incidents to whale trainers caused by the orcas, with the most severe ones resulting in death. Senior trainer Dawn Brancheau’s death was one of the most gruesome episodes ever to occur. Pulled beneath the surface of the water by her ponytail, Tilikum managed to abuse her so badly that her body had become unrecognizable. SeaWorld not only continued to say it was an accident, but also blamed Brancheau for having a long ponytail – an easy target to grab hold of. “Blackfish” shares stories and videos of multiple trainers with the same hairstyle that never caused the whale to grab hold of it and pull them under.

In response to the film SeaWorld said in a statement to CNN: When asked for interviews several times, SeaWorld refused. The world-renowned organization had only this to say: “Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau’s family, friends and colleagues” (CNN).

Research proves that uninhabitable environments like that of captivity, are slowly killing the orcas. They become too weak to be released into the wild after their days of performing are long over. So why do we continue to capture, train, and confine orcas, while the degradation of their lives is stimulating aggression towards their trainers. After three brutal killings, Tilikum mundanely continues to swim the perimeter of his cement enclosure, performing less than before. Where do we draw the line between our selfish desires for entertainment and the decency of life for these killer whales? Orcas are meant to roam freely about the open seas, which is why there they thrive. By stealing this freedom from them, we not only reduce their quality of life, but also put the human trainers at a huge risk.

Events on Mindfulness and Art: Nawang Khechog’s Visit to DePauw

When you think of meditation, it’s likely that you think of Buddhist monks as well. Meditation has been practiced by Buddhists for centuries, and has more recently made its way into the Western mainstream under the umbrella term of “mindfulness training” (Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is especially popular). Defined as “being aware and attentive to the present moment without judgment,” mindfulness-meditation offers a host of benefits to its practitioners.

The advantages of practicing mindfulness are far-reaching, and are being incorporated into the fields of education, eating, sports and even business. Scientific research is confirming what many who practice mindfulness already know, which is that mindfulness-meditation is beneficial for mental and physical health. College students especially have much to gain from becoming more mindful because it can decrease stress and anxiety, and increase attention and focus; one study even found that increased mindfulness led to a 16 percentile increase on the verbal reasoning section of the GRE, and correlated with higher grades.

Buddhist monk turned world renowned flute player and composer, Nawang Khechog was told by the Dalai Lama himself that his musical talents would be better put to use if he shared them with the world. He’s also shared his gifts with members of the DePauw community, inspiring and collaborating with Mud Lotus writer and director Chris White. Mud Lotus is about a Buddhist monk searching for the reincarnation of his former teacher in the Midwest, and was in part inspired by Nawang’s journey. White, English professor and coordinator of DePauw’s Film Studies program, teamed up with other DePauw faculty and students, including Communication professor Jonathan Nichols-Pethink, who co-produced and edited the film.

This week, carve out some time to clear your mind, take some deep, intentional breaths, and attend one of the many events featuring Nawang Khechog. Mud Lotus premieres Thursday, November 7 at 8:30 pm in Watson Forum, and Nawang will lead a workshop, entitled Awakening Kindness, in the Bartlett Reflection Center at 4:15 pm on Friday. To read more about Mud Lotus and these on-campus events, click here.

Forgotten Casualties: War and the Environment

Humans are sometimes self-contradicting. They are well aware of the violence and social and economic disruptions caused by war, but war, ironically, has been one of the most recurring themes throughout human history. One thing that might have justified this contradiction could be the cost and benefit analysis through which people think the harm caused by war is the price that they have to pay in order to achieve advancements and greater good. However, there are many casualties of war that cannot simply be quantified as either benefits or costs that have been long forgotten by many people. By degrading the natural environment, wars are destroying the intrinsic values of other lives and are depriving future generations’ the right of having a healthy life. The loss of value of species and the right of living a normal human life cannot be calculated in quantitative terms.

Following are two examples of how warfare has altered the natural environment and human health in negative ways: Agent Orange: Agent Orange was used as a type of defoliant by the U.S. army as part of its herbicidal warfare program, which was code-named Operation Ranch Hand during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. More than 19 million gallons were sprayed over 4.5 million acres of Vietnamese land. According to the Red Cross of Vietnam, more than 1 million people were disabled or developed health issues and 500,000 children were born with birth defects as a result of the toxic compound contained by Agent Orange. Agent Orange has also broken the local ecological balance by causing loss of protective tree cover. Some case studies showed that among the veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the war, some had increased rates of cancer, and skin and digestive disorders.

Depleted Uranium: Depleted Uranium is the waste product of the nuclear enrichment process. Although it contains a lower level of U-235 (an isotope of uranium making up about 0.72% of natural uranium) than natural uranium, it is still estimated to contain about 75% of the radioactivity of natural uranium. Depleted uranium is not only highly radioactive but also chemically toxic, thus very harmful to human health. Uranium falls from the coating of weapons, turns into particles and eventually contaminates air, soil and water, causing severe damage to human cells and DNA mutations. According to Iraq’s Minister of Human Rights, the U.K and U.S. used nearly 2,000 tons of depleted uranium bombs during the early years of Iraq’s War, and areas that are highly polluted have reported increased numbers of newborns with birth defects and a rise in the number of people getting cancer.

Although the importance of environmental protection during war times has been addressed through International Environmental Law and environmental laws or human rights laws from countries that have been environmentally influenced, it is more imperative to let people, from an individual level, realize that environmental impacts are equal to the socio-economic impacts of war.

One key approach in raising people’s awareness is to change the ways in which people view the relations between nature and human society. The environment does not exist solely for humans, but also for millions of other species on this planet. Although war, under some situations, has been effective in relocating resources between different states or social groups, it was never and will never be helpful in balancing humans’ share of resources with the rest of the ecosystem.

November 6 is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. If you would like to know more on this topic, please join our event “Forgotten Casualties: War and the Environment” on Wednesday (11/6) in the Peeler Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. for some inspiring documentary clips and professor-led discussions.